Sometime in December 1998, some activists of the Niger Delta extraction launched what was called the Kaiama Declaration. The youths, largely from the Ijaw land, were worried that whereas the region was producing the wealth of the nation, it was getting far less from the central government for the development of the Niger Delta.
Their campaign for resource control was globally acknowledged as the youths took the then military government to task, insisting that the time had come for the states from where crude oil was produced to also be allowed to control whatever they were producing.
Years after, that campaign was to die down gradually. Those who were seriously agitating for a regime of resource control in the Niger Delta had other things in mind, especially after the federal government established the NDDC, which was supposed to address the development challenges of the region. At some point, the word resource control was never heard again.
But last month, the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike re-introduced the resource control clamour in a different way, when he came up with the idea of stopping the federal government, through the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, from collecting the Value Added Tax, VAT, from his state.
He insisted that it was immoral, wicked and illegal, for the FIRS to continue to collect VAT from his state, only for the federal government to give him some paltry amount. He took the legal steps of, first of all, approaching the court for an order to stop the FIRS from collecting VAT from companies operating in the state; and then got the state house of assembly to pass a law authorising the state’s revenue agency to collect VAT for the state.
This did not go down well with the FIRS, who also took steps to discharge the court order at the court of appeal. And they got what they wanted.
But many other states have now seen the light, after the Wike initiative. States like Lagos, Abia, Edo, Akwa Ibom are among the states that have taken steps to join Wike in the revolutionary VAT resource control initiative. In fact, Lagos has already passed its version of the law and has applied to be joined as respondent in the court of appeal which is currently hearing the appeal on the VAT legal battle.
We agree with all Nigerians who have hailed Wike on this issue. His action has turned out to be an eye opener for everybody. Now, his colleagues have caught the vision and are of the hope that they can control their VAT resources, use same for the development of their states, without having to wait to get peanuts from the federal government. We commend the Rivers State governor for the boldness and courage to make the VAT resource control move. His state looks ready to fight the battle to the very end.
But we must also state that it is equally very important that, in the event that the states win the VAT war, they must also ensure that the funds are used for the good of the people.
A lot of the states need to provide basic amenities for their people. Penultimate week, flood waters caused havoc in many states. The needs are many and it will only take a governor who is not greedy and selfish, to use the millions of naira that will come from the VAT resources, to develop his state.
If this is not done, then a victory against the FIRS’s unconstitutional collection of VATs would have been in vain.